A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Louisiana's Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo, involves characters from Raymie Nightingale and begins two years after that book's conclusion. As in the first book, also set in the South during the 1970s, some really terrible things happen, starting with the 12-year-old narrator being yanked from her bed by her crazy scamming grandma in the middle of the night and hitting the road for parts unknown, with no word to her friends. There's a whole lot of traumatic abandonment in the story itself and in the past, where a magician's ditching his family has far-reaching consequences. Louisiana's grandmother has been conning, lying, and stealing to survive as long as anyone's known her, and involves Louisiana in her schemes. Kids are fond of stealing from vending machines, and some people are just plain mean and rotten. But coming out of all that, with many shining moments of low-key but life-changing kindness, is a strong sense of friendship, family, belonging, and determination, all seen through the eyes of a young girl you're rooting for from the first outrageous moment.
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What's the story?
LOUISIANA'S WAY HOME begins in the fall of 1977 as 12-year-old Louisiana Elefante, last seen in Raymie Nightingale, is forced from her Florida home on a road trip to parts unknown at 3 a.m. by her crazy granny, with no word to anyone. Before long Granny's laid low by a dental emergency, 12-year-old Louisiana drives the car off the road, and they're stranded in a small town in Georgia after defrauding a dentist and conning their way into a motel room. Which turns out to be just the beginning of Louisiana's troubles and, she figures, only her due, considering the family curse. But when she meets Burke, a kid her own age, and Clarence, his pet crow, and other unexpectedly kind people, she hopes for some help getting back home to Lister, Florida, and her friends.
Is it any good?
Kate DiCamillo spins a harrowing tale of abandonment and family curses in a Southern small town in the '70s -- offset by determination, music, joy, kind strangers, and an irresistible kid narrator. Louisiana's Way Home features lots of great characters, humor, and heart. Young Louisiana's long-suffering outrage at being uprooted from home and friends (by a crazy adult) will resonate with many readers, who will find lots to cheer as she stands up to overwhelming circumstances. Here, after much struggle to find a phone, she's just failed to get the directory assistance operator to find the number of her friend back home:
"'Honey,' said the operator, 'it will all be fine.'
"And then there was a click and she was gone.
"I hung up the phone. I bent over and put my hands on my knees and worked to get air into my lungs.
"I thought, it will not all be fine.
"I thought, I am alone in the world, and I will have to find some way to rescue myself."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories of abandoned children, and why this is such a compelling theme for storytelling. How does Louisiana's Way Home compare to other examples you know about?
This story takes place in the '70s. What do you think would be different if it happened now?
Have you read Raymie Nightingale? Were you glad to get more of the same characters, or would you rather read something completely new?
- Author: Kate DiCamillo
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: October 2, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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